How to Light Mirrors

Since ancient times mirrors have been a priority feature of interior living. They fulfil a functional need for self-portrayal but also as a method to enhance the levels reflected light within a room. Whatever the purpose of a mirror, tackling how to light them with sharpen your lighting design skills and add a polish to look and feel of a project. Lighting a mirror is an interesting topic. In effect, we actually light around them in order to light subject in the reflection or to create a framing effect.

Lighting a face in a mirror


Lighting for a mirror in a bathroom particularly needs to be done with a combination of light sources from a combination of directions. The face requires an even wash of light but ideally without shadows within the eye sockets and under the chin.

Solution: bring light down vertically and push it towards the face.

Example: Use a downlight in the ceiling positioned just above the head slightly towards the front of the face – use the edge of the sink as your guide. This will light the front of the face but will create shadows if this remains the only source. Negate the shadows by throwing light onto the face via wall lights or reflecting light off the wall from a hidden linear source. This principle is demonstrated in the main image above – one downlight reflecting light within the alcove.

Hairdresser Case Study Click here


Professional use of a mirror requires the lighting of customers faces and hair in an expert way. In this instance the business had always only lit from above so during the refurbishment we hid a strong linear source (High output T5 fluorescent in various sizes) with the purpose of making a shadow gap around the perimeter – washes sufficient light down the wall as to act light as a wall light – reflecting light onto the face to act as a counter-balance to the light from the downlight. (approx. 900 lumens each).

Remember that whilst the face (and hair in this case) is lit well, there is plenty of light to enter the interior space which minimises the requirement for extra light sources to litter the ceiling.

Lighting a Bathroom

Use the mirror itself as a way of concealing light sources. For instance, wash light down onto the sink and taps from a hidden source at the base of the mirror.

Use mirror adaptor kits (if available) for mounting wall lights onto a mirror (i.e. Astro Mirror adaptor kit). This helps spread the pressure around the hole cut in the glass of the mirror when the light is tightened against the glass.

Suspend a light source in front of a mirror: We sell IP44 drop pendants that are the perfect solution for positioning a light source in front of the face when all the wall is mirrored.  Two versions – an Astro and hand made bespoke solution are available. 

Have you considered mirrors that contain their own lighting? These can be useful as they provide the light where it’s most needed, in front of the face. However, a tip is to watch out for the colour temperature of the light. A cold crisp LED or fluorescent may give what seems a more realistic rendition of a skin tone BUT LED needs the CRI to be high for a true colour rendering – at least 80 RA.


Also – we have found that some sources that come with certain mirrors and wall lights are too bright, where your eye squints a little to compensate for the brightness. We have found that to be the case in certain cases where a long linear source is required but not dimmable.

Mirrors in a Living Space

Mirrors above fireplaces and furniture help reflect light in the day and can effectively widen a space. At night this reflector is more effective as it is in the day. To replace the broad illumination of daylight in the evening, position a downlight source near to the mirror which will introduce some light for the mirror to push back into the interior. However, being by nature reflective mirrors can be a trial to light

Backs of Cabinets

Tricky! Any light fitting you put in there will be reflected back, which more often or not will look ugly and ill thought through. The purpose of lighting inside a cabinet is to help brighten the objects within, so the light has to be in the foreground, however, this is the furthest away from the mirror and therefore is more likely to be seen in the reflection.

Solution: Hide the source so only the light itself will spill downwards – put an LED strip inside a deep aluminium extrusion at the front of the cabinet so the extrusion masks the light source.

Dressing Rooms

Can be an issue when there is no room for a wall light due to the presence of cupboards. We try and light from behind the mirror if there are surfaces to reflect light off or make sure there is a downlight near the mirror to illuminate the viewer and position another one or two lights in order to reflect light off the cupboard doors or walls which will contribute to even out the shadows.

Remember to call us at Orange Lighting for a full range of lighting mirror options available and ask for free advice on all methods to enhance mirrors within your next interior project.

Andrew Orange, the owner of Orange Lighting qualified and worked as an interior designer in 1993 before specialising in lighting working on high profile projects based in London. Since starting Orange Lighting Ltd in 2003 he has been sharing his knowledge and unique teaching style mostly to his designer clients, offering practical real life advice born from running a busy consultancy and lighting supply business. Launching in 2020, his blog has evolved into Quick & Easy Lighting, curating some 25 years design experience into making the lighting choice and design process achievable and easy to understand for all.